3 Jefferson Co. cities deal with water supply issues due to low river levels
The 350-foot U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Dredge Hurley works to clear a navigation channel on the Mississippi River on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 near Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz) By Adrian Sainz
The sun sets over the flooding Mississippi river in Vicksburg, Miss., Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Floodwaters from the Mississippi river are expected to crest in Vicksburg on Thursday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin) By Dave Martin
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV) – Officials in Festus, Herculaneum and Crystal City say they have taken steps to deal with low water levels, but fear the situation will get worse as drought conditions continue.
Water in Festus and Herculaneum is supplied by the Jefferson County Water Authority, which has been hit hard by low water in the Mississippi River, said Steve Settlemoir, who manages the Cathy Jokerst Water Plant for the Water Authority.
Settlemoir said the drought is affecting water supplies up and down the river.
“We don’t draw directly from the river, but the river levels have a great effect on the aquifers (underground water sources),” Settlemoir said. “We’re highly affected by the river levels. Our pipes are 15 feet below the Mississippi River. The lower river levels are not allowing the water to come to the plant at a rate fast enough.”
Festus City Administrator Happy Welch said his city turned to wells Monday to help boost the water supply.
“The situation is where the water plant can’t supply both Festus and Herculaneum because of low water levels,” Welch said. “Herculaneum has been running their wells for a couple of weeks 24 hours a day and that can’t continue (without danger of damaging the system). Our wells can supply the city’s water satisfactorily without going 24 hours a day.”
According to Welch, Festus officials are telling residents there could be discolored water coming through their pipes some time while the wells are in use, but maintains the water is fine for drinking and other uses.
“Changing the direction (because of well use) stirs up the materials in the pipes,” Welch said.
City officials say residents could see stains after washing their clothes while Festus uses its wells. Residents can get a free chemical solution to remove the spots, at the Festus Public Works Department building, located at 950 N. Fifth St.
“We’ve offered the solution before,” Welch said. “There is no cost.”
In Crystal City, water superintendent Tim Whaley said the city is under a “voluntary water conservation request” because its wells are straining to provide water during the drought.
“Our two wells that feed our water plant are low,” Whaley said. “We’re running lower than normal levels. We’re asking people to do things like when using your dishwasher, make sure it’s full. Also, limit your shower time.”
Both Whaley and Welch said this drought has been more threatening to the water supply than in past years.
“We’ve really never run into anything like this, the ongoing drought,” Whaley said. There’s nothing to feed the aquifers. My concern is, you listen to the forecasters and they’re not giving any hope for a quick fix.”
Whaley said Crystal City officials are researching if they should drill their wells deeper than the current level of 100 feet.
Welch and Whaley both said water rationing could happen if the water levels do not bounce back.
“It’s the winter months, so we’re not in a heavy water-use period,” Welch said. “If it were summertime, we might have needed water rationing.”